John Martin farms in partnership with his parents on the Ards Peninsula 15 miles south of Belfast. The 65ha (160-acre) Gordonall farm and 16ha (40 acres) of rented land carry 400 Suffolk x Cheviot ewes, a small flock of Suffolks and 40 spring calving sucklers. About 20ha (50 acres) of barley is grown for feed and for sale.
AT LAST, a normal sleep pattern has been resumed with only a handful of early lambers left. The lambs are mostly all outside, having enjoyed a mild January with all its sunshine.
The first 78 ewes with twins are now grazing 17 acres of rape, but have access to a grass field if they wish. We havent used strip grazing for years and just let them at it all. With a headland round the field they start at the outside and eat their way in, and actually waste very little. The other ewes and lambs are all on grass.
The lambs are still only eating small amounts of creep as yet, but its kept clean and fed fresh daily. However, the crows are also rather partial to the meal and see the feeders as a 24-hour fast food joint; we are currently engages in a battle of wits, and lead.
The lambs have been growing well but we have lost a few at three to four weeks. These have been sent to the DANI Veterinary Research Laboratory for post mortem, a service we will have to pay for in the near future. As yet no conclusive results, but a suggestion that our problem may be lamb nephrosis. No, I hadnt heard of it either but it seems to be the in thing for lambs wishing to expire. The bad news is that there is currently no known cause or cure, and only some flocks are affected.
The March lambers are now all housed on a diet of good quality silage with only purchased replacements still outdoors. They have access to silage and hay, but will also be given a little concentrate before housing to prevent any dietary upsets. The last of our finished lambs realised £66 to round off probably our best sheep year ever.
Not so the cattle; 12 home-produced Farm Quality Assured Limousin bullocks were slaughtered Feb 3, averaging 307kg at 20 months. The revaluation of the green £ has helped reduce beef price to 186p/kg for U3/R3 grades. The deseasonalisation premium of about £58 will bring them up to around £600, but still well short of £710 last year. *
John Martins early ewes are almost finished lambing, and the first 78 ewes with twins are grazing rape.